LDF MENDELU becomes a centre for forest ecosystem research thanks to the EXCELLENTIA project

10. 5. 2023
A cutting-edge interdisciplinary research group will be established under the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology to conduct research on forest ecosystems under the leadership of leading scientist, Professor Douglas L. Godbold. The team will study the impacts of projected climate scenarios on Central European forests. The necessary data collection and practical research will be carried out at the Masaryk Forest School Křtiny, where Science Days, guided tours of the permanent research plots in cooperation with the forestry pedagogy of the Křtiny Forest School, will also take place repeatedly during the project. The five-year prestigious EXCELLENTIA project was launched by LDF MENDELU in May this year.

The project should bring new insights into the issue of climate-threatened forest ecosystems in Central Europe with respect to the needs of society, but also shed light on how much man has contributed to past instability by moving away from cultivation of natural forest towards monocultures. EXCELLENTIA will build on the availability of data and the research programme already underway at the LDF,” said Libor Jankovský, one of the main objectives of the project.

The researchers of the multidisciplinary team will focus on the ongoing climate change, which is also affecting European forests. They will also investigate the sustainability of forest ecosystem functions in the context of ongoing changes and ensure forest stability for the coming decades. Drought, the fact that different tree species respond differently to drought, the susceptibility or resistance of tree root systems to pathogen attack are other issues that the project will address. Through Professor Godbold’s exceptional contacts within the European scientific community, it is envisaged that the team will be involved in major international projects.

As a long-established university research facility, the Křtiny Research Centre will provide a unique background for this research, not least because of its diverse soil and tree species composition. In addition, some of the research plots were established here as early as 1973, since when continuous tree growth measurements have been carried out. Scientists thus have a unique data set at their disposal.

In addition to the scientific line, the EXCELLENTIA project aims to bring about structural changes in the areas of sustainable research and innovation, intellectual property rights and research data management, codification of scientific ethics and career guidance. The plan includes, among other things, online training courses on scientific ethics, but also on the ability of scientists to present the results of their work both verbally and in writing. The EXCELLENTIA project will work closely with the MENDELU library in the area of open science,” said Pavlína Pancová Šimková. The results of the project will be continuously communicated not only to the professional but also to the general public, for example through the national event Night of Scientists. The project also envisages cooperation at the level of secondary schools, among others within the framework of the Biology Olympiads.

The project ERA-Chair: Striving for Excellence in the Forest Ecosystem Research (EXCELLENTIA) will be implemented from May 1, 2023 to April 30, 2028. It is the project with the largest financial contribution to MENDELU so far from all EU Framework Programmes. The research team of the EXCELLENTIA project will have an equal status with other institutes of the LDF. The project coordinator is Libor Jankovský, Head of the Institute of Forest Conservation and Hunting and Dean of the LDF of MENDELU. The project builds on the ongoing ASFORCLIC project funded by Horizon 2020 and other projects such as the Research Centre for the Study of Phytophthora Pathogens funded by the Operational Programme Research, Development and Education.

Contacts for further information: prof. Dr. Ing. Libor Jankovský, Head of the Department of Forest Protection and Hunting at LDF MENDELU, +420 739 341 961, libor.jankovsky@mendelu.cz; Ing. Pavlína Pancová Šimková, Ph.D., Institute of Forest Conservation and Hunting, LDF MENDELU, +420 545 134 065, pavlina.simkova@mendelu.cz

Photo: Tomáš Pospíšil

Professor Douglas L. Godbold has nearly 30 years of experience in researching soil-plant interactions in forest ecosystems. His main focus has been on soil processes including fine roots, mycorrhizae and carbon dynamics. He has worked in boreal and temperate forests as well as in the dry tropical forests of Ethiopia. He has extensive experience in experiments aimed at adjusting factor variables such as atmospheric CO2 increase, drought stress and tree species diversity in forest ecosystems. This professional experience has also led to successful project management at national and international levels.

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